'We're Both Water Babies' -- How A Rockford Couple Keeps Their Love Fresh

Feb 14, 2020

"Carmina Burana" is a popular choral work about the power of fate. It starts with a poem, in Latin. In English, it translates to:

Fortune

like the moon

you are changeable

ever waxing

ever waning

Jesse and Libby Parker are a popular Rockford couple whose marriage of 49 years is uniquely connected to the cantata. Ten years ago, they moved from the Seattle-area to Rockford.

Jesse shared the story of how "Carmina Burana" influenced their decision to move to the Midwest.

He said, “Libby's brother got us tickets to the Rockford Symphony.  He was in the chorus. I was a choir director in Seattle for the Seattle Symphony and the Portland Symphony, and this was the very same work; 'Carmina Burana' by Carl Orff.”

Libby, too, is familiar with the work. Her parents once sang it in Boston.  

Jesse continued, “I know the score, she knows the score. We're both professional musicians, which is one of the things that drew us together. That's how we met.”

Jesse recollected the 2010 Rockford Symphony Orchestra production that also featured the Mendelssohn Chorale. It took place at the Coronado Performing Arts Center and more than 100 adults and children sang.  

He said, “We were just blown away.”

Then they drifted into other opportunities. A month later, Libby was reviewing concerts for the Rockford Register Star.  

And Jesse?

He said, “Three years later I was guest soloist with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. So it was meant to be.”

It was meant to be, and, thanks to their shared faith, it still is. 

Libby said, “I call myself a Unitarian Universalist. It is, for me, not a particularly religious faith, but it's a faith in justice.”

She explained what justice means to her. “It’s equality under the law. Equality in all things for men, women, people of color, and people who are LGBTQ."

Libby calls this point in time "a firework." She said, “Right now everything is exploding. People are able to choose their own feelings about their bodies and their own sexuality and so on and I think it's wonderful.”

Jesse said he agreed with Libby and added, "My background is Jewish and this is a later in life discovery. I like the inclusivity of the Universal Unitarian tradition, which is definitely a global one, and cares for the inherent worth of every human being.” He continued, “That, for me, in current happenings, is the most important thing.”

Jesse and Libby “definitely” share political views. Libby said, “I don’t know how couples in this climate right now can be of two different minds.”

Jesse was quick to add, “But they are,” and they both laughed.

The Parkers share many Rockford elements; music, faith, and politics. They also share a love for animals (they have three cats) and nature.

Jesse said, “We’re both ‘water babies.’” He continued, “It’s wonderful to walk on the trail, along the river. It’s something that makes us very happy to be here.” Both are enthusiastic about Anderson Japanese Gardens, the Nicholas Conservatory, the city’s park system, and, perhaps most of all, the people.

Though they miss their two adult sons who still live in Washington state, Libby referred to Rockford as a “powerhouse.” She admitted, “All the time we lived in the Seattle area, we really -- aside from some neighbors -- didn't have any big acquaintances. We worked, sometimes three jobs apiece, to put bread on the table, raise the kids, and so on. But moving here, we now have a circle of friends and it's like ‘Wow!’ People are friendly here and it's really been an excellent thing for us."

Though they are so open about their lives and opinions, when asked if they had any plans for Valentine’s Day, Jesse said, “It’s a secret.”